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Monday, April 30, 2012

mitzvah monday

mitzvah (noun): a good deed, a charitable or meritorious act

This week's mitzvah is very, very, important to me...'s an investment in the future. Can you guess what it is?

A big, fat check to the local school district education fund, targeting my boys' two schools.
Not as fat as I would like (someday, if I play and win the lottery, here's where it will go)
but as much as we can right now--a month's grocery budget.
Keeping class sizes small (er) and all the innovative programs in place.

I feel lucky to live where my kids have benefited from a K-12 public French immersion program,
electives like art, music, and P.E., and really good teachers.
They will be able to take advanced placement classes and complete the International Baccalaureat.
I wish all kids had those opportunities.
Check out this short NYTimes article about why kindergarten teachers should be paid triple digits! (oops--I actually meant in the thousands, that is SIX DIGIT SALARIES!)
Thankfully I can feel like my donation directly helps both my p'tit minous and many other p'tit minous.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

simple sunday

Something simple for dinner...soup.

Healthy, filling, satisfying...

I make a pot on the weekend and we eat it all week (the kids don't usually partake, sadly).

Sometimes it can be a complete meal in a bowl, vegetarian chili or minestrone.

Lately we have been really enjoying vegetable soups, the French way (pureed, not too thick).

This week's recipe:

5 russet potatoes, scrubbed, with skins
5 large carrots, scrubbed, with skins
2 large zucchini squash with skin
2 cloves garlic
1 small head broccoli with stalk
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes with basil
Cook all together in a large kettle until soft, let cool
Puree , adding water until desired consistency
Add salt (or Lo-Salt) and black pepper to taste

Enjoy! It gets better each time you warm it up. Add salad and good bread, maybe a sprinkle of fresh parmesan, a few nuts or a fried egg, and you have a complete dinner in no time.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


I have my work cut out for me today....

And so does Minou....

And speaking of cutouts, I am appreciating these colorful Oaxacan decorations our front neighbors are flying

Despite the spring sunshine, it's a fuzzy bathrobe kind of morning

And a second cup of coffee kind of day.

Just look at this handsome, hard-working, grass-speckled man (no bathrobe for him):

What are you up to today? Do you have your work cut out for you this Saturday?

Friday, April 27, 2012

frugal friday

My frugalicious act this week was...getting back on my bike.
This was made so much easier by the beautiful spring weather and the new puncture-resistant tires Minou had put on my bike last week (spendy, but we budget $30 for "bike stuff" monthly).
With gas at $4.20 a gallon, I calculate that it costs almost 10 cents a mile to drive or be driven these days. I have a 13 mile round trip commute to one of my health center sites and 15 miles to the other, adding up to a weekly total of 58 miles...or $5.80. It may not sound like much, but with $5.80 I could rent 4 Redbox movies for the family, or almost buy a bottle of wine or pound of good coffee for Minou and myself, or put a tiny drop in the bucket of our mortgage (controversial among frugal folk, I know). If you drive less, you might be able to lower your car insurance rates as well--we did this last year.
Those are just the economic benefits! There's so much more. Health benefits, environmental benefits, and it feels great to have the wind in your hair...(with helmet of course)...

*Late realization: When Minou is transporting me to work and back (so he can use our shared family car), he actually does the trip twice--so double those numbers above, $12 a week or $48 a month.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

thankful thursday

Today I am feeling so very thankful that spring is here, inviting us outside to soft and lovely evenings. It seemed to take so long to arrive this year, but it's all the sweeter after the many months of grey rain. I am also thankful to tend this little corner of the earth, here in the city.

What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

winnowing wednesday

to winnow: [transitive]  a) to remove, to get rid of b) to sift or separate c) to blow on to remove the wheat from the chaff

Sifting and separating for the week: 7 items for 7 days.

1) recently passed down to me--pretty, but consensus is "Are you expecting?"
2) great film--watched twice--to the White Elephant stash it goes
3) old prescription--off to the Lion's Club--thanks Colleen for the reminder!
4) works well, but Minou upgraded to an industrial one for his business--why keep two?
5) interesting wrap that Da left-- pretty, but I probably won't wear it, so someone else can enjoy
6) passed down, don't fit...(love those recycled clothing bags from friends though)
7) classic, but can borrow from library

Because I love open space. And less to clean & tidy.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I have read that being an introvert or an extrovert has nothing to do with how much you like to be with people or enjoy socializing--that by definition, in simplest form, it is about how you renew your energy.

Do you refill your well alone, or with other people?

I am an introvert.

 This last weekend on my own, much as I missed Minou and my boys, was a delight. Moving at my own speed, following my own routines, taking time to sit, reflect, and journal...the quiet house, the lovely spring weather...I was able to break though some mental barriers that had been holding me back from making progress on a project, and I think it had a lot to do with the time to myself.

The circumstances helped too. Minou and the boys were off having an adventure, a happy event, and we were in contact. I connected with sweet friends and neighbors, and my mom, who stopped by.

I worked (on academic projects), cleaned, jogged, cared for the animals, and sat. Sat! I went to bed past midnight, unusual, Saturday night and set a late alarm Sunday, but forgot about the needs of the critters...woke up to let the cats and dogs out (after noisy reminders) around 6 a.m. and once I went outside to let the chickens out, the misty spring morning was so mesmerizing that I forgot about going back to bed.

An oasis of energy renewal. Thankful today.

Monday, April 23, 2012

mitzvah monday

mitzvah (noun): a good deed, a charitable or meritorious act
This week I felt happy about sharing their fresh eggs...

...with friends and neighbors.

Thank you, Ladies.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

simple sunday

James really knows how to keep life simple

This week's simple idea...

I wear a uniform to work. Not the military kind, not the fast food kind, not even the health care kind...but a uniform nonetheless. I find it stressful to hunt for clothing in the morning, making sure that it is clean, unwrinkled, matching, and fits my "mood" for the day. Ten or fifteen minutes can easily slip away standing in front of the closet and digging through laundry baskets. I would rather spend that time walking the dog for a few extra minutes, having a second cup of coffee, or reading a chapter of our  book (right now 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) with p'tit minou 2.

Solution? I borrowed an idea from Minou (when he worked in an office). I wear almost exactly the same thing every day. For Minou, it was corduroy pants and white dress shirts and a tie. For me, I wear comfortable non-wrinkling black pants (I have two pairs), black socks and black Dansko clogs.  For tops, I choose from a few sweaters/knit tops/button-downs depending on the season and wish for color...but they all go with black. On casual Fridays, I have a different uniform: jeans, agency t-shirt, and silly striped socks.

However...if I forget to keep up with the laundry, my whole system is thrown into jeopardy! Last week somehow both pairs of black pants were in the wash (not yet washed) at the same time, and I was thus in a tizzy getting out the door and to an early staff meeting. Most of the time, however, wearing a uniform works so well for work and keeps life simple. True, it can be a little boring--but a simple uniform can be altered or dressed up easily with a scarf or earrings, and it saves a lot of time in the mornings!

What do you wear to work? Do you use clothes to express your creativity, or prefer a time saving solution?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

solo saturday

Minou and the minous are heading down to San Francisco today for a solo adventure--a required trip to the French Consulate to renew the kids' passports (every 5 years for children). I remember doing this by mail before, but they have a new type of "biometric" passport now for which you must apply in person (I'm actually not sure what this means & am imagining something very high-tech--will they perform a retinal scan?!).

I hope that they will actually enjoy their one day of sightseeing as well. I was recently there for a contraception conference and had a fantastic time riding cable cars, visiting museums, and enjoying city sights (and most of all, visiting with some close friends). I also learned A LOT about birth control and reproductive health--what an incredible experience!

Anyway, they will be staying at the same hotel, the Grant--clean, quiet, central, and reasonably priced. I encouraged them to ride the cablecars, visit Chinatown and the Exploratorium...basically, recreate my trip (minus the contraception part) so that we can compare notes  (I kept thinking "They would LOVE this!" while I was there).

And me? My plan is to catch up on homework and research for my Population Nursing class, and hopefully sprinkle a few seeds in the garden.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Frugal Friday

This week's frugal act at home. This does not really represent a change for us, since meals out are a rare and special treat, but I took full advantage of my mid-week day off to prepare food for the family. This is potentially money-saving because with the backbone of meals planned for, we're less likely to make those quick trips to the store for something for dinner and end up with six other purchases.

On Tuesday I made: Vanilla Walnut muffins (with lots of fresh eggs from the Ladies) for after-school high-protein treats, a big kettle of Potato Leek & Kale soup for Minou and I--savory and delicious, and two vegetarian (using veggie ham) Quiche Lorraines, again with our own eggs. I do not have the best success with pie crust (anyone have a good whole wheat recipe?), so the quiche was received with mixed reviews by some, but appreciated by most. I also made sure we have weekly staples on hand--milk, fruit, salad, veggies. This way we can get creative with other supplies in the cupboards without being tempted to resort to more expensive veggie burgers or tofu dogs, our convenience foods.

How about your frugal acts of the week? Please share!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

winnowing wednesday

to winnow: [transitive] a) to remove, to get rid of  b) to sift or separate c) to blow on to remove the wheat from the chaff

Sifting and separating for the week: 7 items for 7 days.

1) passed down to me--still haven't read--will borrow from library
2) decorative, but in 3 months we have not drawn still-lifes, and missing the lid
3) useful but have other, more solid bags
4) 1993 was the year I studied in Beijing and used this
5) not sure where this came from...I did used to make quilts
6) passed down to me--watched once--will go to next year's White Elephant gift exchange
7) doesn't fit!

Monday, April 16, 2012

mitzvah monday

mitzvah (noun): a good deed, a charitable or meritorious act

I went to donate blood on Saturday--something that always makes me feel good. My blood type is relatively rare, so I wait to get that call from the blood center requesting it, and then I hurry down there. Did you know that while about 37% of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood, only about 10% do so? hemoglobin was just ever so slightly too low to give up a pint of blood, so I went for a nice long run, had several iron-rich meals with vitamin C foods, and am going back today. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


It's the time of year that seems to inspire blogging creativity for me.

A brief disclaimer: for my sweet family members (you know who you are, and I'm glad you're here!), permission has been withdrawn by the teen/tween boys around here to share images or information. They are seeking online privacy in this forum (at the same time I have no doubts establishing their presence in other online ways, but of their own choosing), and I need to respect that. So if you are hoping to catch a glimpse of how much shorter Minou and I appear each day compared to our offspring...sorry!

Nevertheless, I am a Mama. It's not all of my identity by any means, but it is a deep and central and vital part. So Mama Minou I will remain here, and it will be hard to avoid sharing parts of my life that relate to mothering and parenting. It shifts as we head into these different years--stage by stage all along of course, but it is interesting to have these glimpses that their time at home is sadly not forever.

Minou and I have had moments lately of looking at each other and thinking "Only x more years...." and not sure how to understand all the many emotions that accompany that. For the majority of our (many) years together, we have been PaMa MaPa Minou. We will need something new to share. We have started to think about volunteering more in the future--we were both glad to help in a cold weather homeless shelter kitchen these last few years, but the evening and very early morning hours didn't feel right when leaving our own little (?) minous at home. Also, be still my heart--Minou said casually the other day, as he picked me up from work, "Maybe our trip (this upcoming summer) will be the start of many more travels together".

For the moment, we are sharing a new (renewed?) commitment to healthier eating and trying to reach some fitness goals. For tech-oriented Minou, the helpful tool has been a free online fitness tracker that lets you input food choices (even scanning bar codes) and exercise, and helps set calorie and weight goals. I say, whatever works! (it's called myfitnesspal, if anyone is curious).

Other goals--continue to learn and grow in my community health care position, try to get the garden cleared out from last fall (sigh) in time to plant for this spring and summer, prepare for a very, very exciting trip TOGETHER this year to visit our family in Lattes, and dear to my heart, create more space at home. More on all those later.

To be continued....

What are your goals, plans, and dreams today?